Eagles

Running backs Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders get an 'A+' in our Eagles-Bills report card

Running backs Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders get an 'A+' in our Eagles-Bills report card

The Eagles don’t need to qualify a 31-13 victory over Buffalo in which they slowly exerted their will and wound up completely dominating by the end. Sure, the Bills probably aren’t as good as their record, but a win is a win, especially on the road.

In terms of our report card, we did grade on a bit of a curve, though not necessarily based on the quality of the opponent. Rather, it’s because of the weather. While the numbers weren’t all awesome, particularly on offense, the weather was definitely wreaking havoc out there — more on that in the grades.

Quarterback

Carson Wentz: 17/24, 172 YDS, TD, 8 CAR, 35 YDS

In some ways this was arguably Wentz’s best game of the season. He was efficient, completing 70.8 percent of his passes for 7.2 yards per attempt in a wet, windy conditions, and he didn’t turn the ball over. And when the Eagles had the opportunity to put the Bills away in the fourth quarter, Wentz coverted two third downs with his legs to keep the chains moving, including a 3rd-and-11.

Grade: A-

Running backs

Miles Sanders: 3 CAR, 74 YDS, TD, 3 REC, 44 YDS

Sanders may leave some yards on the field, but he collected all of them on his 65-yard touchdown run right through the heart of the Bills defense — with a tremendous lead block from Jordan Howard, too. Howard added 96 yards and a score on 23 carries, plus a 15-yard reception, and Boston Scott pitched in with a four-yard touchdown run.

Grade: A+

Wide receivers and tight ends

Alshon Jeffery: 4 REC, 64 YDS

Dallas Goedert scored the group’s lone touchdown, with the tight end’s five-yard scoring play part of a three-catch, 22-yard day. Zach Ertz only had only two receptions for 20, while Nelson Agholor had four for just seven. Here’s the thing, though: while not overly productive, the Eagles caught the ball when it came their way. And, not to belabor the point about the weather, but there actually would’ve been an excuse to drop the ball.

Grade: B

Offensive line

Absolutely dominated a quality Bills defense, especially as the game went on. The Eagles ran for 218 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.3 per attempt, and while Wentz was sacked three times — at least one of which was the result of holding the ball too long — the quarterback was only hit five times total in 28 dropbacks.

Grade: A

Defensive line

Brandon Graham: 6 TKL, 2 TFL, SK, FF, FR

The pass rush was inconsistent, and one 14-yard touchdown pass was partly the result of allowing the quarterback to break contain. Yet, when Graham and Fletcher Cox did get home, the results were big plays — Graham with a forced fumble and recovery that led to six points and a drive-ending sack, Cox also with a drive-ending strip sack and another pressure that resulted in a loss. Derek Barnett also registered a half-sack, forced fumble and three quarterback hits.

Grade: B+

Linebackers

Nate Gerry: 6 TKL, TFL, SK

Gerry had the numbers, but T.J. Edwards also had four tackles and should’ve been credited with a forced fumble on a play where he caught the ball carrier from behind and knocked it free as the play went out of bounds. It wasn’t a turnover, but you really haven’t see these types of high-awareness, effort plays enough from Eagles linebackers this season.

Grade: B

Secondary

Malcolm Jenkins: 6 TKL, TFL, PD

No exactly the most potent downfield attack, but the Eagles still limited the Bills to a 47.1 completion percentage and 5.0 yards per pass attempt. Ronald Darby also came up with a pass breakup on fourth down. Now, it’s unclear why the defensive backs couldn’t make a stop on 3rd-and-forever until the fourth quarter, but take away one third-quarter scoring drive and the unit was solid.

Grade: B+

Special teams

Jake Elliott: 1/1 FG, 1/2 XP

A tough kicking day for Elliott and Cameron Johnston (two touchbacks) can be forgiven due to the elements. Boston Scott’s fumble, on the other hand, is inexcusable, even if fielding the punt was no easy task. That's the lone knock on a unit which blocked an extra point.

Grade: B-

Coaching

Eagles’ record: 4-4

Not everything Doug Pederson drew up worked, but the head coach deserves credit for devising a creative game plan, especially considering some of the limitations the wet, windy weather imposed. Jim Schwartz needs to figure out the third-down defense, as it’s really embarrassing for the Eagles to have so many conversions of eight yards or more occurring on a regular basis. Overall, this was a gritty, bounce-back win for a team that’s been on the wrong end of a lot of humiliations over the previous couple weeks, so that in itself was a success for this staff.

Even if the Bills really aren’t very good.

Grade: B+

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What has Miles Sanders done to turn his season around?

What has Miles Sanders done to turn his season around?

Remember how overmatched Miles Sanders looked after gaining just 25 yards on 11 carries in the opener against the Redskins? Remember how lost he looked a week later when he was just 10-for-28 in Atlanta?

Three weeks into his rookie season, Sanders was averaging 3.1 yards per carry and ranked 28th out of 33 qualifying running backs.

Six from the bottom.

Since then?

Sanders has blossomed.

In the Eagles’ last nine games, Sanders is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, 7th-best in the league of 53 backs during that span.

Six from the top.

In a season with very few positives, Sanders’ development has been fun to watch.

What’s been the difference?

Sanders is just seeing things better, he’s running more decisively and he's moving the chains forward.

Nothing demonstrates that better than his percentage of carries that have gone for one or fewer yards.

In his first game, more than half his carries went for one or fewer yards (6 of 10). Through five games he was still at 35 percent, with 19 of 53 runs that went less than two yards.

In the last seven games, that number has dropped precipitously. Of his 62 carries since the Vikings game, only nine — nine of 62 — have been one or fewer yards. 

“I feel like I’ve been getting better and better each week,” the second-round pick from Penn State said. “Everybody’s been telling me that, but most importantly, I’ve been noticing it myself, just trying to get better and do it each week. I feel more confident just as far as reading where I’m supposed to be, getting my eyes in the right place and just playing ball out there.”

Sanders has 520 rushing yards and needs 118 to break LeSean McCoy’s franchise rookie rushing record of 637, set in 2009.

He has 879 scrimmage yards and needs 130 to break DeSean Jackson’s franchise rookie scrimmage yards record of 1,008, set in 2008.

Going into this weekend, he was second to Raiders 1st-round pick Josh Jacobs among rookies with 879 scrimmage yards and fourth in rushing (behind Jacobs, David Montgomery and Devin Singletary).

Is Doug Pederson using Sanders enough?

That’s a different question. 

Sanders is averaging 4.5 yards per carry overall but still has only the 30th-most carries in the league and the 25th-most touches among running backs. 

“I think you're seeing the patience in the running game,” Doug Pederson said. “His vision is better, it's improved from Week 1 to Week 13. The more he gets time, the more he gets snaps, the better he'll get.”

Sanders has taken care of the production. Now it’s up to Pederson to take care of getting him more snaps.

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Eagles vs. Giants live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 14 game

Eagles vs. Giants live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 14 game

9:57 a.m.: Good morning, everyone! 

We have waited a long time for tonight, but the Eagles will host Eli Manning and the Giants tonight at the Linc. Here are five matchups to watch.

If you’re heading to the game, bring your rain gear. 

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